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American New-Builds: How does the Industry Recover?

To rejuvenate the American new-build market, the industry needs to better engage local, state and federal legislators.…

Americans sure do love their superyachts. Over a quarter of the current fleet is owned by Americans and current order books are dominated by those hailing from the United States. Yet, over the last decade the American new-build market has collapsed.

While shipyards like Westport and Delta Marine continue to do what they can, the industry as a whole has declined, from a peak of 34 units in 2008 to a new low of 7 in 2020. In my article for recently published edition of The Superyacht Americas Report (No. 211), I ponder some of the potential reasons the market has declined and what has kept it down over the last decade.

Yet what can the industry do about this? Moreover, how can the industry revive this once thriving new-build sector? My answer, whether popular or not, is a pragmatic solution: legislative advocacy.

Legislative advocacy is a necessary part of modern business, especially in the United States. Many interest groups, spanning all sides of the political spectrum, spend their time and money educating local, state and federal officials about their specific and industry-wide needs. Almost always, industries that invest see tangible rewards later.

For our industry, we must help educate lawmakers on the policies that hinder the industry’s growth. Issues like the potential harm of the Jones Act and its negative impact on attempts to resurrect the new-build market. Or, how external factors keep us from competing, such as how many countries subsidise both their ship and yacht building industries. Ensuring a competitive market is essential, either through subsidisation, enforcement of free market principles or both.

Legislative advocacy is not just a benefit for shipbuilders. Communities across America benefit as well. For every one job directly created by a shipyard, another three are indirectly created. More employment is only a good thing, especially in small coastal communities where workers are needed. This should be a key to winning over legislators, as one of the biggest keys to their political success is job creation. Similarly, revenue growth by private enterprises and increased employment and the salaries that follow, mean more tax revenue that public officials can use in their communities, even without raising rates. More revenue means better public amenities and further attraction of business and jobs… and the cycle continues.

Some groups in the United States are working on promoting our industry. The US Superyacht Association continuously seeks to promote all things superyacht, helping to educate communities and legislators alike. Some examples of local success come from the Northwest Marine Trade Association and Superyacht Northwest, which successfully advocated for changes to charter laws that will surely support jobs and economic growth in the region (if they can do it for one sector of the industry, why not others?).

For our industry as a whole to recover, we must step up locally, regionally and nationally to show communities and lawmakers that our industry adds value and is needed. We are more than just what people view on “Below Deck”. We support families and are a foundation for economic renewal.

For more on this topic, check out the latest edition of The Superyacht Report.

Profile links

WESTPORT YACHTS

Delta Marine

U.S. Superyacht Association (USSA)

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